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4-H Livestock Judging Project



Authors as Published

Andy Seibel, Associate Extension Specialist, Virginia Tech

Are You Into It?

The 4-H Livestock judging project allows youth the opportunity to learn about animal selection, evaluation, breed character, production factors, marketing, and careers within the livestock industry. Youth learn the principles of animal science and gain life skills, such as decision- making, by evaluating and communicating animal differences based on their functionality for producing high quality products and offspring to meet market demand.

Youth will increase their public speaking skills by learning how to prepare a logical, coherent set of reasons which they will present to a qualified judge.

The Livestock Judging program offers 4-H members the opportunity to participate in competitions at the county, district, state, national, and international levels.

The Virginia 4-H Livestock Judging team finished first in their national contest, which was held in November at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. As a result of its national championship, the team was eligible to represent the U.S. in the Livestock Judging Contest at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, Scotland. While in Europe, the team had the opportunity to tour farms and livestock operations in England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Starting Out

Compare and contrast animals based on species and class in a judging contest.

Learn about characteristics of an ideal beef, goat, sheep, and swine animal.

Locate and describe specific parts of beef, goat, sheep, and swine.

Identify different beef, goat, sheep, and swine breeds.

Learn terminology associated with beef, goat, sheep, and swine.

Learn how to organize notes on animals.

Learning More

Answer questions based on the four animals being evaluated in a judging class.

Interpret individual performance data and Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) for selected animals.

Analyze and make decisions based on which four animals would be kept in a keep/cull class of eight animals.

Lean the terminology to compare rather than describe market and breeding animals.

Exploring Deeper

Develop and present livestock reasons which justify and defend your class placings on market and breeding animals.

Interview livestock producers about the opportunities and challenges in the livestock industry.

Share your knowledge by helping younger 4-H members explore a livestock project.

 The activities listed are to inspire further project development.

Expand Your Experience: Pass it On!

Now that you know more about your project, share it with others. Here are some ideas to get you started.


The ability to make good decisions is a skill that has to be developed through practice and is one of the most important skills for success that anyone can have. Livestock judging provides an opportunity for 4-H members to develop their decision-making skillsand to communicate the reasoning behind theirdecisions to industry professionals while evaluatinglivestock.The ability to critically think to make decisions and effectively communicate orally the reasoning behind these decisions are a skill set which will benefit the 4-H member throughout their professional career.


Become a role model for others by taking a leadership role in the livestock industry through encouraging other youth to participate in local livestock judging events or joining a local animal industry association and participating in meetings and events.Attend or establish a Virginia Quality Assurance training program in your county with the Virginia Cooperative Extension service and your local agent.


Develop a display for your county fair that will inform the public about livestock breeds and market products. Work with your local agricultural extension agent to offer a workshop for local producers on on low stress handling and animal husbandry.

Healthy Living

Participate in a 4-H Food Challenge event, such as the Virginia Beef Challenge, where youth members give a short presentation demonstrating a recipe, including: preparation steps, giving nutrition information, and presenting the food safety practices that they followed when preparing the dish. Design and create an exhibit that features cuts of meat and their anatomical origin or develop a list of recipes utilizing local sources of protein.


In cooperation with a trained volunteer, utilize a handheld ultrasound instrument to determine back fat and loin depth measurements. Youth may work with a local vet to determine if there is a fetus present in breeding stock. Evaluate performance data to select the appropriate animals for a given scenario.Work with a local producer to enhance your understanding of beef, goat, sheep, and swine anatomy and physiology.

Learning Resources

The Virginia 4-H Youth Livestock Program is the largest animal science project area enabling youth to develop their interest in beef cattle, goat, sheep, and swine in their 4-H projects. Youth learn about selection, care, and feeding of livestock, animal health, and the importance of good record keeping. Virginia resources can be located at:

Record Keeping

4-H Record Books provide members an opportunity to set goals, develop a plan to meet the goals, record events related to their project, reflect on their experiences, and to analyze their management decisions. To access the Virginia 4-H Livestock Record Books online, visit

Showcasing your Knowledge and Skills

Virginia Tech researchers stated that the livestock judging activity provides youth who have an interest in the livestock industry the opportunity to develop necessary skills for their futures and their careers. The skills developed through the evaluation process of the judging activity can be utilized in real-life situations.

Tell Your Story

How did the project change you?

Judging has opened my eyes to the many opportunities found within agriculture. It has taken me to contests across the United States and overseas as well. Not only do you conceptualize the skills of public speaking, critical thinking, and animal selection, but you use the aforementioned qualities throughout all aspects of your life.

Sarah Harris - 2017


What will you do with what you learned?

Participate in the Virginia Tech Block and Bridle Livestock Judging Contest and/or the Virginia State 4-H Livestock Judging Contest in June.


How did/can your skills make a contribution in the community, improve character, and establish connections for your future?

Oral reasons helped me to become comfortable with talking to individuals who are older than myself. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to judge at a contest in Denver, Colorado.

While at this contest, I got to talk to an individual from Colorado State University. He told me about all the job opportunities that lie ahead. I would have never known about all those without establishing important connections like this.

Bailey Carpenter -2017

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law

Publication Date

December 6, 2022